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Crossing the Chasm and onto the Main Street: TV White Spaces Technology Spreads its Wings across Singapore with New Commercial Pilots

The Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG) today announced its next wave of TV White Spaces (TVWS) commercial pilot deployments in Singapore with Gardens by the Bay, Sentosa Development Corporation, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and the Eurokars Group. Together with the first series of pilots announced in September 2012, SWSPG has created a strong case for transforming TVWS –unused TV broadcast frequency bands – into premium wireless connectivity channels in Singapore for both broadband and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.

These announcements were made in line with the inaugural Global Summit on Dynamic Spectrum Access and TV White Spaces, organized by SWSPG and held at the Singapore Island Country Club.

From powering the data needs of mobile workers to enabling M2M communications in a smart city, wireless connectivity can indeed underpin the socio-economic progress of nations today. However, the exponential growth of wireless data traffic has created a strain on communications infrastructures in a world where spectrum resources are finite. Rising to this challenge, governments, policy makers, researchers and industry players are partnering to innovate on both agile spectrum management policies and more efficient spectrum utilization technologies. The set of SWSPG pilot projects are by far the most comprehensive TVWS commercial pilot efforts in Asia Pacific region. They are primary examples of public-private-partnership in adding value to economy and society through a combination of technology and policy innovation.

In recent years, TVWS has leapt onto the centre stage, with both spectrum policy and technological innovation. With supporting regulation, TVWS technologies turn unused TV broadcast frequency bands into complementary and cost-effective wireless broadband delivery channels and offer a new option for M2M data transmission. This is achieved through a set of highly desirable attributes associated with TVWS, including the ability to travel over longer distances and penetrate more obstacles such as trees, hills and buildings than technologies using higher frequencies, such as conventional Wi-Fi.

TVWS can enable greater wireless coverage in areas that were previously not possible due to challenging terrain and can improve business cases for organizations and network service providers through reduced total cost of ownership. The Singapore Island Country Club (SICC) successfully deployed a TVWS network that provides Wi-Fi coverage over its sprawling property covering multiple golf courses and several buildings. The TVWS deployment has delivered wireless connectivity where other technologies had previously failed, allowing for enhanced services for the Club members. The technology was simple and cost effective to deploy. In addition, the TVWS network allows the Club to trial new innovative resource management systems which have the potential of achieving 45% savings on external lighting costs, with SMART lights and the world’s first TVWS chip.

“The benefits of using TVWS technology are tremendous, be it to support ‘smart city’ infrastructure, to extend connectivity into previously challenging environments or to enable ubiquitous, reliable wireless connectivity that will enhance our lives. Alongside the commercial pilots, it is essential for the SWSPG and others to look at how this innovative technology really can make a difference in delivering a smarter, greener and safer environment for us all, the applications are only as big as our imaginations,” said Ms Tracy Hopkins, Corporate Vice President, Neul.

The new commercial pilots announced today by SWSPG are conducted under a test licence from the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) and utilize a TVWS Geo-location Database developed specifically for Singapore by Microsoft, with advice and inputs from IDA. These new pilots include:

  • Gardens by the Bay: Singapore’s iconic attraction has undertaken a TVWS trial to provide Wi-Fi connectivity to its visitors in a reliable and cost-efficient manner, without intrusive equipment and wiring built-ups over its greeneries. TVWS-based wireless connectivity was deployed to taking advantage of better propagation characteristics of TVWS signal. Currently three different sites at Gardens by the Bay – Supertree Grove, Meadow and Canopy - offer TVWS based Wi-Fi connectivity to visitors.
  • Sentosa: Singapore’s premier island resort getaway is implementing a trial to provide Wi-Fi coverage and deploy security surveillance cameras at Siloso Beach, Belawang Beach and the Merlion complex, while demonstrating the co-existence of multi TVWS vendors in a single environment.
  • Housing & Development Board (HDB): This pilot project responds to a need for video surveillance for rooftop security, car park enforcement and getting real time video from the lift system in HDB buildings. TVWS technology is expected to add efficacy in getting real time coverage, which would result in enhanced security and safety for the residence. Currently, all surveillance is done using cameras with local storage and manpower is required to collect them when needed. With the use of real time video recordings, it is possible to perform real time video analytics and allow multiple departments to share the same surveillance resources.
  • Eurokars Group: Singapore’s flagship car dealership will use TVWS to cost effectively extend their IT network to a number of outlying buildings. This will be complemented with unique concierge services: test-drive vehicle tracking, customer scheduled service management and other customer value added services.

Dr Tan Geok Leng, Executive Director, Institute for Infocomm Research (I²R) and Science and Engineering Research Council, A*STAR, said: “I am proud to say that Singapore is one of the pioneers in TVWS research, and continues to be a trailblazer in the TVWS movement globally. The successful pilots that we have seen in Singapore have set benchmarks in showcasing the potential of TVWS technology in delivering reliable and cost-efficient wireless broadband for multiple of commercial applications. With the new pilot projects, we hope to see TVWS being deployed in many other new and innovative applications.”

SWSPG was founded in April 2012 to develop pilot projects, collaborate on R&D efforts and support Singapore’s plan to implement a regulatory framework for adopting TVWS. Its founding members included I²R, Microsoft, StarHub and Neul and early members included Adaptrum, Power Automation, Singapore Island Country Club, Spectrum Bridge and ZDW Systems.

Today, SWSPG is announcing nine new members, doubling its membership to 18. The new members include:

1. Grid Communications: As Singapore's enhanced network service provider, GRID Communications is committed to offering a fully integrated mobile solution for people who are constantly on the move. Joining SWSPG, the company will deliver powerful technical edge in helping Singapore becoming a truly connected city.

2. Terrabit Networks: is an innovative Solution Provider that brings together unique skills in telecoms, RF technology, software and network infrastructure to deliver cost effective communications solutions to customers on time and in-budget and is now deploying TVWS networks in Singapore as part of the SWSPG and in other regions.

3. National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT): As Japan’s sole independent administrative institution specializing in the field of information and communications technology, NICT is charged with promoting ICT sector as well as research and development in ICT, which drives economic growth and creates an affluent, safe and secure society.

4. Eurokars Group: Is the largest privately held car distributorship in Singapore. It strives to increase shareholder value with a focus on its customers – a unique customer service that strives to differentiate itself from others. TVWS has given the Eurokars Group a unique opportunity to create new and highly differentiated customer service offerings.

5. Sentosa Development Corporation: Sentosa Development Corporation manages the Sentosa island resort, Singapore’s Southern Islands and the Mount Faber Leisure Group. It has joined SWSPG to take part in a trial to connect surveillance cameras and provide reliable Wi-Fi coverage on the island.

6. HDB: HDB is Singapore's public housing authority and a statutory board under the Ministry of National Development. HDB plans and develops public housing towns that provide Singaporeans with quality homes and living environments. It has joined SWSPG to take part in a trial to use TVWS technology for its video surveillance system to enhance security features in estates.

7. NexWave: A regional provider of network engineering services, NexWave builds and manages mobile telecommunication networks for telecoms equipment vendors and service operators in Asia-Pacific. The company has joined SWSPG to take part in trial projects that deliver quality Internet connection to environments challenged by difficult terrain.

8. iconectiv: Telcordia Technologies, Inc. doing business as iconectiv, develops market leading neutral solutions including number portability clearinghouses, mobile messaging services, and spectrum management databases. iconectiv is a U.S. FCC certified TV White Space Database and its robust database solution is available for the SWSPG trials.

9. ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems): A leading Information Communications Technologies (ICT) solutions provider in the Asia-Pacific region. By joining SWSPG, the company will contribute its expertise around trial projects focused on networking and security.

Mr Mock Pak Lum, Chief Technology Officer of StarHub, said: “The addition of these nine new SWSPG members is testament to the potential and demand for TVWS technology in Singapore. We look forward to these new members strengthening our knowledge of TVWS, while at the same time, we are proactively calling out to more research institutes, ICT companies and commercial entities to join SWSPG and be one of the TVWS pioneers in Singapore.”

SWSPG members consist of many world leaders conducting cutting-edge research in both cognitive radio and spectrum database technologies that underpin the TV White Space promises. These R&D initiatives continue to push TVWS technology to new heights. Some recent examples include:

1. Cognitive Radio Research: Microsoft Research (MSR) and the NICT Japan have both been active in cognitive radio research and related standards development in international organizations such as IEEE, IETF, and Wi-Fi Alliance. Both are taking leadership to develop and showcase IEEE 802.11af draft standards-based TVWS radio prototypes and are looking into collaboration on enabling world first interoperability and global roaming for TVWS devices.

2. TVWS Database Interoperability: Microsoft, Spectrum Bridge, and iconectiv (formerly Telcordia) have each developed a TVWS management spectrum database specifically for Singapore. The companies are collaborating on Database-to-Database coordination and interoperability and intend to showcase multi-DB coexistence in some of the new pilot projects.

3. Small cell indoor deployment using TVWS: StarHub and I2R are working with the Singapore Management University (SMU) LiveLabs to conduct R&D on a future high-speed low latency mobile network deployment model. Small cells are miniature mobile base stations that provide a small coverage area indoors or outdoors. TVWS is used as backhaul for the small cells deployed across the campus.

Recognizing the potential of TVWS technology, IDA had started looking into TVWS as early as 2009 and subsequently launched the CRAVE trials for the industry in 2011.

Ms Aileen Chia, Deputy Director-General (Telecoms & Post), Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore, said: “We are very encouraged by the progress made by SWSPG in contributing to the TVWS development in Singapore since 2012. The successful pilots conducted by SWSPG members have demonstrated the commercial viability of TVWS technology in Singapore. In 2013, we look forward to greater private-public collaborations to advance TVWS deployment in Singapore.”

To further support TVWS movement in Singapore, IDA today has launched a public consultation to seek views and comments from the industry and members of the public by Q3-2013.

Mr Michael Thatcher, Chief Technology Officer, Public Sector, Microsoft Asia Pacific, said: “Since 2009, IDA has been instrumental in paving the way for TVWS adoption in Singapore. We are excited to see that IDA has taken a step further in 2013 to set the stage for a transparent and industry-wide discussion on TVWS regulatory framework in Singapore. On behalf of SWSPG members, we are looking forward to actively contribute to this public consultation.”

About Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group

The Singapore White Spaces Pilot Group (SWSPG) was formed on 19 April 2012 by the Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), Microsoft Singapore (Microsoft) and StarHub. Neul subsequently joined as a founding member. SWSPG aims to pursue commercial pilots using TV White Spaces and associated technologies for innovative consumer and business services and applications in Singapore.

Adaptrum, Power Automation, Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Spectrum Bridge, ZDW, Grid Communications, Terrabit Networks, NICT, Eurokars Group, Sentosa, HDB, NexWave, iconectiv and ST (Info-Comm Systems) are the members of SWSPG.

SWSPG welcomes local and international entities to join as members, and work together to accelerate the adoption of TV White Spaces technologies and policies locally, regionally, and globally. Together, the group also aims to promote Singapore as a leading test-bed and innovation zone for this new and exciting technology.

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